Finish Line: Each New Day, Each New Mile

There once was a time, not too long ago, when how fit and strong you were had a much deeper significance in our lives than it does today.  It is a relatively short journey back along our evolutionary ladder when in fact if you were not fit or strong, or perhaps extremely cunning you simply wouldn’t survive.

It was back in the age, when if you wanted to eat dinner you either had to chase it down or till the earth and make it grow. Also in that time, when danger came along, you had better be able to out run it, or you would be diner for something much fiercer and stronger than you.

The 6 & 10 Day Self Transcendence race finally came to an end today.  It was a breezy overcast day with alternating showers mixed with tantalizing glimpses of bright sun.  By all accounts it was a wonderful event in which nearly every one declared that they had a wonderful time.  One can hope that if there were a few abstainers from this view than we can predict that there perspective just might mellow a little with time.  That maybe in a few weeks, when the aches and blisters are all gone they may reassess their opinions and declare it a great success.  Everyone I spoke to at least said they had a great time here at the Self Transcendence race.

Most likely there were moments when it felt like it would simply never ever be over.  That 10 days or 6 days is an eternity when you are trying to run as far as you possibly can.   In the great scheme of things this amount of time is nothing.   Perhaps though, what each of  the runners achieved here may in fact be much more precious than they dare to even realize.

The race was not covered by any big news network and though 17 countries were represented here it was barely a blip on the global news radar.  It was of course pretty important to me and also to many others who have tried to follow the events taking place here.  As monotonous as it might seem there were ever evolving dramatic changes taking place here, on a moment to moment, mile to mile basis.  For me it least it was a place of dreams and hopes.  It is simply almost impossible for a non participant to adequately recognize all the toil and effort that goes into it, with a just an added dash of suffering thrown in for good measure.  The reward for all who worked so hard here  is negligible, that is when you consider just how much effort was sacrificed over this brief but intense period.

No one’s survival was ever at stake, no danger lurked behind any bushes, and food was always available, without the need for a spear or a plow.  The real value of all this individual effort however is another matter.  There were, from time to time, moments of ego and pride that surfaced and helped push a runner out of bed and back on the road.  Perhaps chasing a glory that only they could see, and maybe they caught the golden ring and maybe it slipped away, but still something was gained in all this mysterious incomprehensible action that is masked by our human frailty.

For beneath our goretex running suits and anatomically correct shoes is the real us.  Something that we all hope we can draw closer to, even though we may not understand nor clearly see exactly what it is.  There is an inspiration that comes from our heart and continues to push us onward.  It is not bad to believe that maybe, just maybe, we can make at least a little progress each new day and with each new mile.  For in our present age running is no longer just about physical survival but can be about something deeper, soulfully illumining, and much more profoundly transcendent.

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Day Ten: Much More Than Running

Luckily I have done these before, and I’ve gotten through a lot of pain and problems.  I knew that if I tried to enjoy the race as much as possible and be cheerful and move forward than I wouldn’t have to worry about the pace.  Then eventually my body would pick up.”  A couple of days ago when I was at the race, I saw someone coming towards me that I simply couldn’t recognize.

The figure that was moving along was so hobbled over and bent out of shape  that I thought I was looking at some crippled old man.    I was wrong, it was Arpan.  He tells me that a quadricep problem in one leg and a hamstring in another had simply stopped working.  His forward momentum looked more like a crawl than a walk.  I couldn’t tell who it was until he was practically right in front of me.  I was shocked.

In many areas of life when the obstacles appear to be insurmountable it is advisable to stop and simply retreat for safety.  In ultra distance races the usual guidelines that we apply to normal human activities simply no longer apply.  Logic and common sense are our dear friends most of the time, but when we have them as our constant companions, we can only go so far.

Our relationship with our own negative qualities never ever has an upside and when we put all our trust in our mental faculties the definition of our world becomes constrained and limited.

We are all aware at times of the higher possibilities that we all have within us.  Whether because of timidity, or simply plain fear, we sometimes simply fail to even attempt  to reach and attain a lofty goal that is clearly beckoning us. In a multi day race there is very little room for hesitation or for for fear.  When failure attempts to stand in our way we simply have to find a way to go beyond it.

First thing this afternoon I find Arpan walking along side of Shashanka and they are having a great time together.  They are now well into the final day of the race and it is now clear that Arpan did the right thing by simply pushing on through the pain.  He tells me that he might just run again soon.  “I am just conserving my energy for the last 12 hours.” He has seen his original goal of running 100km a day, now down sized, to hopefully an average of 60.

Shashanka has also seen a readjustment of his own goals.  “One was to smile more than last year, and that is not easy especially when you are hurting.”  In this regard he has definitely succeeded.  He says that despite having to adjust his goals, it was worth going through all the pain, the fatigue, and all the nameless torments that a runner become intimately acquainted with here.

For him running  these races is not just a good thing it is a necessity.    “It is always beneficial.  Because in whatever state you are, you are always making progress.  You are having all these experiences.  I had 4 days that were very hard.  It is the name of the game.  It is about much more than running .”

Arpan says, “you are challenged to be happy, when inevitably things are going to be tough physically. When you are hurting and things are not going right, and you learn how to be happy through that.  Then it is easier to be happy in real life.  It is a real valuable experience whether you do good or not.”  He says that despite not getting all the miles he would like, he still deeply appreciates the experiences that he was able to have here. Both vow to train more before they do it again,  “You can’t fool your body in this race.”

“Tomorrow at noon we are gone.  You know you get happier towards the end, but during the race you have to find happiness no matter what happens, and that is the real challenge.  It is really beneficial.”

Click to play interview


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Day Nine: The Fire Within

Multi day races have been with us a long time.  There are some records that show it was a sport as early as the late 18th century and certainly it continued on, well into the 20th. There was a time when it was considered a popular spectator sport.  It was something every body could identify with, because for just about everybody, walking was the only way you were going to get anywhere.  You were probably very lucky to have a horse in the early days, and to have the capacity to cover great distances on foot was practical.  It was also probably pretty entertaining for those who couldn’t make it so far.

Eventually it became a real spectator event, and sometimes people would come by the thousands to watch, and perhaps make a little wager now and then.  Well there are no bets on the outcome of the Self Transcendence race here in Flushing Meadow.  No world records are likely to be broken and yet some pretty wonderful things are happening here just the same on a regular basis.   Though mostly they are very personal and very private experiences happening from time to time to each and every runner.  The little miracles that make such a difficult challenge as this so rewarding to those who undertake it.

Many helpers flow in and out of the camp at all hours of the day and night but you would hardly say there were any spectators.  It is a happy place but it is also a busy place.  The runners are trying to do their best and the many helpers are trying their very best to make this experience as perfect as possible for them.  I have heard stories of multi day races in which there are in fact very few helpers at all, particularly at night.  Technology in these races is used as best it can to keep score and track all the data.  There isn’t much high tech equipment at the Self Transcendence race.  It is very much about people working and sometimes playing together.  Achieving goals that aren’t virtual but are real.  All happening both outwardly and inwardly, creating true experiences that just might change your life.

It is really nice to know that there are so many people all over the world who are trying to follow what is happening here.  Thanks to the internet you can pretty much see who is trying to tap into the race from afar.  In Denmark there are a lot of folks following Lars and in Australia there are those who are routing for Martin, Sarah, and Dipali.  There is one red dot in the middle of Russia that really has me baffled.  Many of these people are more than icons on a map.  They are family and friends and fellow runners who just couldn’t come, but are really interested in what is happening here.

The Self Transcendence race is only a click away via the internet.  All the results are available every day, hundreds of photographs, and yes blog posts.  As I look at those dots, I sometimes like to imagine the faces of those who are staring into computer screens to watch.  I have a hope that for all you who take the time to visit via the internet that you remember how wonderful it is to just to stand on a great green field of grass here, blazing with golden flowers and feel the runners pass by.  See their brilliant smiles and sometimes,  if only briefly, the other side.   Expressions that come from a place that exists on the distant shore away from joy.

There are fires burning in the hearts of all who run here.  It is powerful and it is inspiring, and I hope that maybe just maybe you too might really feel that Self Transcendence is taking place not just in a breezy park in Flushing Meadow.  That maybe you can identify in a way in which it is real for you as well.  That in your identification with those who are trying so hard you become much more than a little red dot far away.  That you too feel the fire within.

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Day Seven #2: Don’t Give Up

“The biggest challenge I thought, as I looked at the weather forecast is the weather.”  We are running together in the pitch darkness of the night.  The first tender hours of Sunday have barely begun and for the moment the conditions are still and almost perfect.  At this point Dipali has been running for a little more than 36 hours.  “It was freezing when we started, and when I came out at 3 am this morning it rained right up until about 2 in the afternoon, and I mean it rained.  I think we are doing pretty well,” she says, and laughs lightly.

The course change this year means it is no longer necessary for the runners to somehow navigate a loop that sometimes required great ingenuity on the parts of the crew and runners to make it work at all, and even though it rained heavily yesterday, no pontoon bridges or kayaks were necessary.

She tells me that she will run for 2 more laps and then take a break for a couple of hours.  “I have just done 40 miles since lunch time.  I didn’t take any break.  I just ran the straight 40 miles.  It is kind of what I do.  I don’t know if I can come out tomorrow morning and do another 40.  I already feel fatigued from the cold start and the rain.”  She had a bad flu just before the race and says she was concerned that she would even be able to do it.  “I was very weak, and decided to do it.”  She admits to still feeling some of the weakness of how the flu affected her.

I actually prefer this time of night, after 9 o’clock, when most of the runners go to bed.  And I actually indulge in the quietness.  Everybody has kind of gone, and there is just a handful of people.  I find it very peaceful and I stay out here to about 1am.  I probably won’t be resting for very long.  Maybe a couple of hours off the track and then I will be back out again.  That is just years of practice.”

“It is 20 years to the month, in May, that I did my first 7 day race,  1991 in Flushing Meadow.  I was pretty clueless.”  At the time she says the furthest she had run was 47 miles.  She was so enthusiastic that she says she blasted the first 100 miles.  This torrid pace however set her back so much she says that she could barely run for days afterward.

Dipali Cunningham now at age 52 is tremendously knowledgeable about distance running and has achieved numerous victories in her races and on occasion, has not only won the women’s division, but been the leader overall as well.  With all her success she ultimately gives credit to her late teacher Sri Chinmoy, who she feels taught her the inner lessons that she could apply not just on the road but in her life as well.  “The inner courage, the inner determination, and the wisdom.”  The race is incredibly difficult and she tries to always focus on the positive.  Use the opportunity of running to not only add up the miles but find the route that will as well lead to her own spiritual progress.

“I always say it is a surrender of the whole being.  It is a profound experience on every level.  She appreciates so much that when she started running these races 20 years ago there were just a handful of people in them.  Now she is amazed that there are more than 70 very enthusiastic runners out here in the race.  All of them she says, “finding their dreams and goals.”

“These people inspire me.  They are bringing me this newness freshness, that you don’t want to disappear in your own consciousness.”  She has after all done 32 multi day events in 20 years.  This year, in almost a complete change to her usual schedule, she ran a 24 hour race in Ottawa in the fall.  “I was really inspired to try it, and I had a great time.  I couldn’t believe how it was so different, and yet I feel that I can improve at it.  That next time I can do more.”

Then for a moment she recalls how Sri Chinmoy used to come to this same park and train, often in the middle of the night.  She imagines she says, that in her quiet moments she can still envision him out here on the course.  Even though it has been 30 years since the park last felt his footsteps, as he ran through the night.  “We can’t forget these things, they are immortal.”

Click to play interview


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Day Seven: Other Side of Dreams

It is simply my favorite time to be at the race.  Right now, it is either very late at night, or early in the morning, take your pick.  The air is absolutely still, and a soothing warmth has ebbed back into the camp.  At 2 o’clock in the morning New York is still a very busy place.  Cars continue to dash by on the freeway, but there are many fewer at this hour.  Planes don’t scream in and out of La Guardia.  The constant rumbling stress and urgency  of the outer world has receded into the night’s gentle shadows.  For now, the world in Flushing Meadow Park is just about the runners, making their methodical way around the course.  Chasing after very real dreams that don’t come as easily to those who sleep.

Sometimes you hear their steps before you can actually see them emerging out of the darkness.

Where so much of the world is sleeping around them, for many of the runners, this is a luxury they can ill afford.  Some stagger off the course and into tents or dorms for rest, for a nap, or perhaps you might call it just a break.  But it is never the all embracing deep slumber most of us succumb to when the weight of night falls around and about us.  You see them set their clocks, so that alarms will go off in a few hours at most.  10 days or 6 days seems like such a grand and luxurious swath of time, but it isn’t.  Precious minutes lost to sleep mean miles snatched away when the whistle blows at the end.

Nobody might really notice if you have let a mile slip away here and there from your daily total.  But you will know.  You will, as soon as the results are posted, recognize a nag and torment of the, ‘if I had not slept so long.’  Some of course at this Self Transcendence race move relentlessly and with a kind of precise efficiency.  That is the veterans and the record holders of course.  Experience has taught them clearly, when the mind and body simply no longer tell the truth.  When aches and fatigue cry with such alarm that they can scarcely be denied.  But these are voices that need to be reckoned with, just  as you would answer a small tempestuous child.  Somewhere within the heart of each runner, they know what they can and must do.  Reach beyond the limitations that seem so real.  Push further, add another step, and still another, until hopefully you push beyond all the things that hold you back.  Emerge on the other side of dreams into the sun bright light of your heart’s reality.

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Day Six: Character Building

This is my first time in New York, and I am next to a freeway with winds, and rain which made an interesting night, but it was all character building.”  It is shortly after noon on Saturday and Martin Fryer has been running in the Self Transcendence race for a little more than 24 hours.  Despite the horrendous conditions he is running with shocking ease and fluidity.  At times the rain cascades down around us and creates a splashing mess on the road.  Martin barely acknowledges  the tumult and slaloms skillfully around the puddles.  His only nod to the inclementness  is to that he simply tugs the strings to his hood tighter and doesn’t miss a step.

Of all the runners here Martin Fryer is clearly the one everyone would like to keep their eye on.  It is not just his speed, and the lightness of his steps, it is also apparent that he just might keep up this fabulous flow and momentum, all the way to the end of day 6.  It is unfair to heap this kind of pressure upon anyone in an event that is just starting.   Yet Martin’s demeanor is also as light and hopeful as his footfalls.

The story of Martin’s entrance into the ultra world began with a move to Sydney where the club he joined there, the Sydney Striders had several ultra members. “Someone took me under their wing, a mentor, that was in 1997.  By 2004 I tried my first 24 hour race which I won and did well in and I thought I had obviously found a niche.  And a terrible niche as it is,” and he offers a light self mocking laugh.  “There is something very pure about these events.  What I have learned has made me a better person and a better runner.”

He is very serious about how participating in long races has transformed him.  “I think one of the big lessons I have learned over the past few years, I think early on I tried to control everything.  I think the last few years I have tried to run more organically, and realize you have to let go and surrender.  It makes it much more joyful, and I have had better results as well, so that was nice icing on the cake.”

“I think you have the potential to try and control it, but I have found you reach a point, what I call analytical thinking.  But after several days in these races the parameters all go out the door.  That is when faith and intuitive thinking become so much more important, and you realize that you are released from that, and all the analytical loops that you been caught up into, when you can’t control the parameters.  It has made a great lesson for me and the rest of my life too.”

I ask him what has drawn him to come so far from his home in Australia.  “Just the name of this race, Self Transcendence, I mean, that is exactly why I am here.  I know it is going to be ugly at times, but you need to expand your mind and uplift yourself, and to work through it.  It is a great metaphor for your whole life.  You are going to have tough times, but if you have the faith, you will come out through the other end of it.”

“I know outsiders find it all very strange and quirky.  They often see us all as a bunch of eccentrics.  But I think outwardly they see changes in you, and they go ‘gee, maybe they might be on to something.’  I guess it is all the ultimate karma yoga.  Just working every day, going around and around.”

Despite an impressive resume of Australian and Commonwealth age group records in several distances Martin has never completed a 6 day race.  He attempted only one before and had to pull out due to injuries.  He has come here with a wide spectrum of goals he hopes he can accomplish.  The top ones he describes simply as the, “big hairy audacious goals.”  Which translated into real numbers is 900km (485miles). “The bottom goal is to finish, so I have been a lot more careful in day one here.  Just sort of looking after myself.  Trying to run a bit more easily.  I think one of the things I have learned, from the first one I did as well was, I went in with the wrong attitude.  I came in with just a purely competitive attitude.”

He describes that for him how a light bulb came on, after being in his previous attempt and making it to day 3, and being stung by injury.  “O now I get it, so that talking to people and sharing the experience.   So this time I feel much happier about it.”

He tells me as well that he is not focusing on his competition what so ever.  He has made a decision not to look at the board.  “You need to run your own race.”

Click to play interview


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Day Four: The Most Important Things In Life

Most days when I visit the course I generally have no fixed plan of who I am going to speak with or what pictures I need to take.  I try and be as spontaneous as possible, and if inspiration calls out, I just hope I can move fast enough to catch up with it.  I am never going to have the constant intense experiences like the runners, but I know that even in a short visit something profound and meaningful can happen when you least expect it.

It often happens that I find it nearly impossible to tear myself away from the race and head home.  Often, in just a flash, I will suddenly see a beaming runner, brimming with enthusiasm and inspiration  coming around a turn and ambling or charging, right towards me.  At these time the race is able to pull me back within itself.

Just as I am about to leave today I come across Nirbili walking the course with her daughter . They are a picture of happiness and contentment.  I am so touched by them moving along in the bright afternoon sun that I immediately stuff my car keys back into my pocket and dash over to them.

“This is my 9th multi day race.” Nirbili and her husband Rajpal have been fixtures of the race for so long it is hard to imagine the race going on without them.  Over the years the New Zealand presence has seemed to increase with each new race.  People like Rajpal are part of a key team that gets the race not only set up, but also allows it to run smoothly.

Nirbili is a gentle spirit who seems to float gently and tirelessly around the course.  She just may be someone whose constant expression is nearly always a smile.  It is also easy to forget sometimes that she is 65 years old, when as of this afternoon, she has completed 168 miles.

“This is my 9th multi day race and something draws me back every year.  It is the opportunity to self transcend.  It is a wonderful atmosphere and a very great challenge.”  She adds that it is here she feels that she can make progress in her life, something that cannot happen quite the same back home in Auckland.

There is no retirement, in the classic sense for Nirbili.  For retirees, who just enjoy sitting back in their rocking chairs, she says, “they are missing out on a awful lot.  I couldn’t do that.”

“This is the first opportunity that I have every had in these 9 races to actually be here.” For daughter being her Mom’s helper is a unique opportunity for her to get a real understanding of what has been a major part of her parents life for almost a decade.  “I have only been able to send faxes and flowers from home.  It is really nice to see her in action, and be her helper. It is an opportunity to be self giving all day which is really nice.”

As a first timer to the race, the enormity of it all takes some getting used to.  “When you see how challenging it is, it is really really inspiring.”  For all the New Zealanders here the recent tragedy that took place in Christ Church is in many ways is still a tender wound that that will take some time to heal.  Penny actually was there when the earthquake took place and she tells me what being here does for her.  “It is giving me a lot of peace, because obviously an experience like that shakes you up a lot.  When everything changes in 20 seconds you whole life is different.  You have to keep on being reminded of what the most important things are in life.  That what we have inside us, in our hearts, love and joy and so forth, are the real treasures of life.”

Click to play Interview


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Day One: “We Have To Have Faith”

“I think it really helps running with people when you are in a low spot.  I just did a long race 5 days ago and I am really struggling.”  It may seem a little peculiar for an experienced multi day runner to be having a tough time just a few hours into a 10 race.  There is after all still a lot of real estate between her and the finish line.

But for Sarah Barnett from Adelaide, as good as she is at modesty, she is undeniably world class when it comes to multi day running.  It will take me some time to check on what exactly the race was she ran a couple of days earlier.  As it turns out she had come here almost immediately from the Athens Ultramarathon festival in Greece where she placed 5th overall in the 1000 km race in 9 days and 12 hours.

When I meet her on the first day it is early afternoon and she has so far completed about 25 miles.  At that time she is running with Dasha Yashina a first time runner from Russia.  They are moving comfortably and their conversation seems like they have been friends for years and not just a few hours.  Sarah says, “people are being really kind.”  She was unable to attend last years race due to some complications involving a passport gone astray. She has regularly attended the race over the last few years.  Now she says, “I want to see if it is possible to put 2 races together.  Now I am wondering if it is such a good idea, and laughs.”  In the 2009 race she ran 684 miles.

“We have to have faith, and not put our trust in our negative minds.” Her goal is simple, to do better than she did 2 years ago.  After saying this she immediately adds, that if if she cannot do it, she will still be happy.  Sarah of course is an elite runner.  It would be easy to expect some bravado from such a talented athlete, but the opposite seems to be the case with her.  Her humility shines on a day when the sky is grey and the winds blow and push almost constantly.  Sometime later she will come up to me after our initial chat and say, that while she is here she wants to take the unique opportunity of being at the race and feel as though she is surrendering to her own spirituality.  Let it express itself through her running and let the results speak for themselves.

One can of course hope to come away from races, both big and small, with world records and great achievements.  This is after all the day it was announced that the record in the marathon was broken.  Self Transcendence however is something deep and it is something intensely personal.  The counters cannot mark it down nor can reporters with microphones record it.  We bystanders may be fortunate once in a while to see a certain smile and a glow about those who have stepped into a new realm.  We might, but most likely we cannot see beyond the boundaries of our own world and limitations.

Sarah has started something remarkable today.  A 10 day race so soon after a 1000km one.  It is impossible to predict any outcome for her this soon and with so far to go.  Yet despite this one still has to appreciate the strength and courage she has to undertake such a thing.  We all can be inspired by it, and wish her only the best.  Perhaps in just learning about a feat such as hers, a hope may be nurtured within us all, that maybe someday we too can perhaps attempt the impossible as well, and transcend ourselves from within.

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The Gift

Sri Chinmoy’s long distance running life started in a simple and spontaneous way.  On June 1 1978 while  visiting in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park where he had just planted and dedicated a Peace tree.  It was a typical late spring day, overcast and coolish.  A not untypical San Franciscan day.  After the formalities of the Peace tree inauguration he invited the small gathering of his students to go out and run with him in the park.  They did not run far and they did not run fast but it was something new and it was a clear sign that a great shift in life in the Sri Chinmoy center was about to take place.

Click to play Golden Time

After the run, and still slightly out of breath, he invited all who were there to come and run the New York city marathon in the fall of the year.  It was an invitation that would spread out far and wide, to all of his students everywhere.   Running the New York city marathon became a tradition that continued for many years until 2002, when the marathon team then sponsored their own race in August during the yearly celebrations.

There were of course many recent events in the year leading up to June 1 1978, that had given us strong clues that distance running would become the next big thing in the center.  The Liberty Torch relay had crisscrossed America just 2 years earlier and Canada’s Oneness Heart had traversed the country from coast to coast the summer before. From these events Sri Chinmoy’s students had received a small sampling of what running could accomplish both within and without.  He was obviously inspired to provide even more opportunities for the young men and women in the center so that they might find opportunities to excel and transcend themselves in sport.  No one realized of course that Sri Chinmoy the sprinter would soon become a distance runner himself.

Click to play Practice

What no one knew, on that cool spring day, was that an even greater opportunity for progress was soon to arrive.  It would come even before most could even digest fully the significance of running the 26 mile marathon in New York.

A few of us had been fortunate enough to be just slightly ahead of the pack.  A handful had run the 1976 NYC marathon and an even greater number, including myself had run in 1977. But a little more than a month after this recording was made, and probably less than a month before his 47th birthday, Sri Chinmoy offered us all a totally surprising and unprecedented invitation.  Starting at midnight, on August 27th, when his 47th birthday was to begin we were all invited to run in a 47 mile race.

Many years have passed since we all heard this news.  It is a distance now that is minuscule when compared to the thousands of miles that are now run regularly in many of the marathon teams scheduled events.  At the time however it was such a formidable number that even the young, trained, and very fit runners could not really comprehend how it could be done.  To make it even more interesting it was to be run on a course that started on the gritty cinder track of Jamaica high school and then meander around the outer block with its bumpy sidewalks, sharp turns, and the formidable Margaret Tietz hill.  It was an unbelievable challenge and most had no idea what to expect.  It was after all almost twice as far as a marathon.  It was hard to even imagine if we could make it to the track for that last victory lap and still be able to grab the flag and make it through to the finish line.

No one can truly comprehend the totality of a Spiritual Master.  Safe to say his task is to be but pure guidance, compassion and love for his disciples.  He never forces anyone to do anything beyond their capacity and, he has a clear insight of what course will take us most directly and speedily  to our goal.  We may not ever understand him, but we do have the obligation of understanding and developing fully our relationship to our spiritual Master.  This comes in many ways and over time.  Principally through spiritual practices and disciplines is it gradually and steadily nurtured and obtained. Over a life time it slowly evolves and blossoms.  Each day more and more is revealed but most of us have a limited capacity for serious and lengthy meditation.  To transfer sedentary  meditation to active distance running is another matter.  It is a unique way to occupy the mind and body with the challenge of long distance while simultaneously allowing the heart to come to the for.

What I, and most of us discovered that first night we ran the 47 mile race was that this race would be like no other. It was a unique and dynamic spiritual act in its own right.   True it would be hard, long, and difficult but the reward we all gained over the hours on the road were immeasurable.  For many it was but one long sustained meditation.  An opportunity to see that even in the most difficult things in life, our teacher, Sri Chinmoy, was in fact acting in and through us.  By simply letting go of our limitations he would open up our inner unbounded capacity and we would be able to see, that in fact. nothing was impossible, if it was truly inspired from within.

But there was something more about running throughout the long dark night of the 47.  Every moment you could not help but be aware that it was our Guru’s birthday.  That whatever inner connection you felt or held in your heart for your spiritual teacher was almost always constantly present with each step and with each additional mile achieved on our way towards the goal.  You could not help but be conscious of all the countless things that he had done to inspire your life, for the love and affection he provided,  and the guidance and care that can only come from one who has accepted a deep and personal responsibility for your spiritual life.  In other words it was impossible while running to not be aware of just how lucky we all were to have a true teacher, and be offered a unique and golden opportunity to help in our inner growth.  And to add to all this, on 2 occasions he himself ran the full distance running with us over the course of the long dark night.

I am not sure at what moment I really understood what the 47 really meant to me.  The first race was 32 years ago.   I seem to recall however, that even from my first step that took us all forward, about 12:07 that night, that for me this race would be my gift to Sri Chinmoy.  There was nothing I had that he needed or wanted.  He was all about giving to his his students.  In return the least I could offer to him was my absolute best effort and my heart’s dedication in this 47 mile race.  A gift that I gave for quite a few years and is one that many still find able to give even today.

47 mile photos by Bhashwar

Continue reading “The Gift”

Most of us expect, at some point in our …

SnatakMost of us expect, at some point in our lives, that we will take a journey.  It may be something as simple as travel to distant lands, or one that is more difficult to assess and measure, an inner journey.  Here there are no simple and reliable vehicles of transportation. The scenery we pass along the way, is the pure landscape of our own consciousness.  There are paths we wander down that may seem predictable and others, in which the destination is just beyond the unknown.  Snatak is one, who for me has taken a journey with his life, that is both profound and unique.  It is one in which has seen the shifting goal of his life move from the improbable to what one can almost say is the impossible.  Yet for spiritual seekers, and for those who have the benefit of a spiritual master like Snatak, impossibility is a just a word to be stepped upon, as they boldly move forward in the great adventure, we call life.

by Pavitrata

A native of  Iceland, for the last few weeks he has been in Columbia with a group of Icelandic friends.  They are here conducting meditation classes in various parts of the country.  His visit here, which is just over 5,000 miles from his home, is not unique. For many years, he traveled for a few weeks each year, during the winter months, with his late spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy.  It is a tradition that has continued on.  Besides his 3 Icelandic friends he is also joined here with a group of about 100 fellow students of Sri Chinmoy from around the world, who are enjoying the groups first visit to Columbia.  Over the years Snatak has visited dozens of countries, and he has seen his own spiritual life blossom.   He has also attempted to share the philosophy and the teachings of Sri Chinmoy, wherever he goes.

“I am a spiritual farmer. God, out of His infinite Bounty, has entrusted me with the task of plowing the spiritual land. This is my first visit to your beautiful island. I have been here for about four hours. During these four hours, I have felt the Indian consciousness here in Iceland. India’s natural beauty I have observed here; India’s inner peace I have felt here. My presence here makes me feel that my life of aspiration and your life of aspiration in the inner world have built a bridge between spiritual India and spiritual Iceland. My Indian heart offers its soulful gratitude to your hearts of aspiration, for it is you who have given me the opportunity to be of dedicated service to you today. Nothing gives me greater joy than to be of dedicated service to the Supreme inside aspiring human beings.”

Excerpt from My Rose Petals, Part 4 by Sri Chinmoy. Continue reading “Most of us expect, at some point in our …”